Akron, Ohio (July 2, 2003) -- A tempest is brewing in northeast Ohio over whether a county's fiscal officer needs a CPA certificate.

The conflict started in 2001 when the Summit County Council passed two separate measures. The Democrat-controlled Council proposed merging the offices of county auditor and county treasurer into one job -- fiscal officer. The second, led by Republicans, combined both offices but required that the fiscal officer be a CPA.

Both issues got more than 50 percent of the vote, but the issue without the CPA requirement received more total votes and Democratic prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh ruled that the issue with the most votes won. So the positions merged last summer and county treasurer John Donofrio -- a former real estate manager who has neither a CPA nor a college degree -- was named to the $97,000 per year job.

Republicans sued and the measure went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld a Court of Appeals decision that said the county’s top financial person must be a CPA.

"The office of county auditor and treasurer are administrative jobs," Donofrio told WebCPA.com. "By combining the posts, I now have two CPAs on staff as well as a lawyer. As an administrator, you hire the necessary individuals to carry out the statutory requirements of the office. You don’t need to be a CPA to be a good administrator.”

The Ohio State Society of CPAs weighed in on the issue, noting that CPAs have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to public service.>

"In general, we encourage CPAs to get involved in public service,” said Society president Mike Dickson. “CPAs bring a comprehensive understanding of not only budget and financial issues, but they also have broad-based knowledge on a variety of business and technology issues."

-- Tracey Miller-Segarra

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